Enjoy food. Enjoy travel. Enjoy life. You're listening to Travel Gluten Free by Elikqitie.
Hello gluten free friends. This is Elikqitie with another episode of the travel gluten free podcast. Today I have a really great special guest. Gluten free friends shout out to a new listener who tags travel gluten free on social media on every episode, so listen for that at the end of the show. Today, gluten free friends, I'm here with a really special guest who has recently hit the gluten free scene with what I consider a book that should be a staple in your kitchen if you are A) gluten free, which you probably are if you're listening to this, and B) you like to bake. She is largely a self taught baker and pastry chef who started out working with chocolate, when after living for a year in Paris, returned home with her landlady's handwritten recipe for chocolate truffles and began to sell them in local gourmet shops.
She then opened her own shop called Chocolate in 1972, which grew into seven shops before she sold them in 1990. She then focused on publishing and creating her first cookbook Cocolate, which she then received cookbook of the year award from the James Beard Foundation. She has since published an additional nine cookbooks which have won numerous awards, contributed to cooking magazines, and consulted in the baking and chocolate industries. She considers herself an inventive, ingredient-driven chef who is not wed to classic rules or received wisdom, which led her to the opportunity to work with gluten free, non-wheat flours. Her most recent book which we're featuring today on the podcast is called Gluten Free Flavor Flours, and it explores the flavors of gluten free grains. She teamed up with a great friend who was also a marvelous baker and cook, Mia Klein, to produce the first gluten free cookbook, which focuses on whole grains rather than white rice and starches, and really celebrates the flavors and textures of the non wheat flours rather than trying to make them behave like wheat.
When we had talked about focusing on whole grains in a previous episode with Laura from Vivan's Live Again, and how that is actually a much healthier way to cook and bake. She is currently writing a weekly column for food52two.com, so check her out over there and she recently won an IACP Award for the best food focus column. Her recent reviews of two baking books appeared, and the April 15th Wall Street Journal. You can check out the link for that on our show notes, and her book Flavor Flours, aka Gluten Free Flavor Flours, just appeared on a New York magazine's list of best baking books, and I will also put that link in our show notes at the end of the podcast. So definitely check those links out. She's obviously an experienced and well sought after baker and pastry chef. So without further ado, let me introduce my guest Alice Medrich. Alice, thank you for being a guest on travel gluten free today, and I'm so glad we were able to meet up online for this episode of travel gluten free.
No, I'm excited to be here.
Thanks. I actually found your cookbook--the, just so listeners get a little bit of background, I actually found your cookbook, because we have out West, which a lot of our listeners are from the Salt Lake Area, but out West we have a grocery store called Smith's and they put out a magazine, and in their holiday magazine you had put in a recipe for buckwheat souffle, and I made it and it was really, really great. So tell us a little bit about how you got into that.
Well, actually I don't remember how that exactly happened, but I think that was a great choice, because first of all, I think buckwheat is one of my favorite non-wheat flours. I love the flavor of it, and it has so many different kinds of flavors in it, and depending on what sort of recipe you use, you, you get a different aspect of the buckwheat personality, and in that really unexpected little recipe, you get all of these delicate floral sort of rose flavors and a texture that's light and dreamy, which is so contrary to what we expect from buckwheat, which is hardy and assertive and all of that. So that's one of my favorite recipes, and honestly I have no idea how it ended up in Smith's. I just don't remember.
So let me backup a little bit because for most of my guests I have on the show, they started involving themselves in the gluten free world because they usually found out--find out they cannot eat gluten. Your path to gluten free is really different. It did not start out with you not being able to eat gluten. It actually started out with one of my favorite food groups, which is chocolate, and then you--Gluten Free Flavor Flours is not your first cookbook, but your ninth book. However, this is your first book dedicated to gluten free baking. Would you give listeners a brief history of how you started out creating your chocolate confections, and how your influence in the world of chocolate has changed how we eat chocolate, and what type of chocolate in particular you are recognized for?
Yeah, I, you know, this all happened quite serendipitously. I had the opportunity to go and live in Paris when I was in my early, early twenties. My landlady made chocolate truffles for us almost immediately when we moved in, and I decided it would be a great idea to ask for a going away present when we left a year later, and I asked her for that recipe. So I come back to Berkeley with this hand written recipe for chocolate truffles, and I see that all this culinary things had happened in my absence. I worked on that recipe, and I wandered into the local Charcuterie. We had a Charcuterie back then, the first one in the country possibly. And I said, "I make these chocolate truffles. Do you want to buy them?" And you know, that's sort of a long story short. That started my entire career with making chocolate truffles home. Don't tell anybody. And I was selling them to the this little Charcuterie called The Pig by the Tail and some other local gourmet shops. And I've branched out into other chocolate desserts. And since I had, had that wonderful year in Paris, my focus was really on homemade sort of housewife style chocolate tortes like the Queen of Sheba, and the sort of nearly flourless other chocolate tortes, lots of dark chocolate. And we were a country that ate milk chocolate in those days here, and it was right at the right time in the right place, and I think it influenced, influenced magazines and chefs all over the country. It was kind of a wave that was happening. That was part of the beginning of it. And I, we definitely introduce chocolate truffles in these parts here and helped to popularize them across the country.
Introduce Americans to dark chocolate and chocolate truffles, and so more of the exotic chocolate?
Yeah, desserts and chocolates that had a more a European style focus rather than really, really sweet American style things, you know, low dense chocolate cakes instead of tall, fluffy ones. So just whole sea change in, in food desert making. That was happening in the early seventies, late sixties, early seventies into the eighties. The food rebels, you know, one of the waves of our food revolution was definitely centered around here. And I had the wonderful honor of being part of that movement. So I had, you know I had the wonderful honor of being part of that food revolution.
For listeners who don't know, what did you call the--there was a specific word you called the chocolate shop.
Oh, Charcuterie. That's a French shop that sells, um cured meats and other things. It was kind of the first one of its kind in this country that I know of and I--we sort of treated as a gourmet specialty shop. You'd go in there maybe for a sandwich, and they might have some little treats on the top of the counter, and I only went in there with the chocolates, not because it was a chocolate shop or a dessert shop, but because it was French, and I thought these chocolate truffles would be a perfect thing for them to have to offer to their customers in addition to all those cured meats and hams and things. And sure enough they wanted them. They tasted them and they said, you know, bring 25 dozen tomorrow.
French origin with--and they were really popular in France?
Definitely. I mean these women had lived in France. They came back and found a little shop across the street from Chez Panisse. They had come out of Chez Panisse, or at least one of them had from Chez Panisse kitchen and decided to open this little specialty shop here. They cured their own hams, and they made a lot of little side dishes, and they made pates, and all of that stuff that you would normally buy in a Charcuterie.
So these women who had the shop, they were--they were located in France or the US?
No, in the US, right across the street from Chez Panisse in my Berkeley neighborhood.
Okay. So they were in Berkeley, California. They were from France and they came and they brought the French, French culinary culture into, into California.
They were American.
Oh, they were American.
They were American women, just like I was an American woman, you know, by France, just like Alice Waters was an American woman inspired by some time spent in France.
You and these other women who are American born and were bringing in the French culinary experience for other people in California.
Exactly. In the early seventies.
Fast forward to a, a video. It's a video interview you did with Mike Hiller from Escape Hatch, Dallas, a little while back, where you talked about cookbooks. And when people use cookbooks, they focus on the middle of the book, but your take is that the gold, so to speak, is in the front and the back of the cookbook, where the author's perspective of food and how she cooks and what he or she loves and their techniques on preparing the food. So the gold I found in your book, actually I loved, was on page fifteen under the title, What if wheat didn't exist? So first, I think I can safely say that the majority of my listeners fantasize about a world where wheat does not exist. I know I do on a daily basis, but, uh, you weren't gluten free. The reason you started experimenting with gluten free flours was completely different. Would you elaborate on why you chose to move away from wheat when you started creating recipes for your new cookbook?
Well, let me--I need to backup. So Gluten Free Flavor Flours is my ninth book, as you said, but I started getting interested in these other flours, and it didn't matter to me whether they were wheat flours or not wheat flours, but I started to get interested in non-white flours, or non wheat white flours. A couple of books before when I published a cookie book, I realized at the time there was a growing gluten free community and that the book really needed a small collection of gluten free cookies. So that's when I started experimenting with gluten free, and I found it really challenging and quite difficult and quite interesting, and I love a challenge. And so that--but when that book came out, that was called Chewy Gooey Crispy-- Crispy, Crunchy, Chewy, Gooey, Melt in your Mouth Cookies. There was this little core collection of gluten free cookies, and I--in the back of my mind I thought, you know, I'm not quite done with this.
And then I published another book called Pure Dessert. And again, I searched the baking aisle and started picking up all of these interesting non-wheat flours that had different flavors, corn flour and buckwheat flour and all of, you know, several different kinds of non wheat flours. And I started using them as kind of accessories and flavor components to my other desserts for Pure Dessert. It wasn't that I was replacing wheat because these weren't gluten free recipes. I was just cutting these flours in and using them as a flavor element. And I really liked that. And again, I thought, you know, there's a lot more here. This is gold. This is like expanding our flavor palette with new kinds of flour. In the back of my mind I thought, you know, there's a bigger project here. And so a few years later when the gluten free community had grown even bigger, and my writing partner was herself, had discovered she was wheat sensitive and had begun too experiment and change her own baking. I thought, you know, if I do a gluten free book, I need to do it with Maya, and together we're going to produce something that you know, greater than the sum of our two abilities, and you know, that turned out to be true, but we wanted to focus on these flours as hero elements, not substitutions. So, and I think that's the biggest difference between what we did and most of the gluten free books is we did not want to treat these flours as substitutes for weight.
Uh, you can really tell when you look through your book because one of the ways you organize it is by flour. So you have a section on buckwheat flour, and then all of the recipes in that section are specifically made with buckwheat flour. And, and it's nice. It's nice that you do focus on the flour and organize it that way. Because like I said before, earlier before the interview when we were talking, and like if I'm in the mood for a specific flavor or taste, I can look under that, that flour. Or if I find like, Hey, I have a lot of...
Yeah, you have something left from another project, then you can go right to the chapter.
Yeah, and then I can pick out one for that specific flour, which is really great. I really liked that about your book. That's actually one of the things that really stood out about your book when I was first looking through it. And then another thing in your introduction that I really liked was your love for Genoise.
Genoise. That's the sort of basic workhorse, all purpose French sponge cake.
Okay, so tell us how you came about because I noticed in the front you were talking about how you chose sponge cake to highlight in every chapter. Why does sponge cake, this type of cake work? Well with a variety of flours.
Super Question. I hate to be told what I can and cannot do, and at the time that we started working on these gluten free recipes, the common wisdom is that you had to take all these flours, and you create an all purpose blend, and then you use it like all purpose flour, and so really you're not honoring the individual flours at all. You're just trying to substitute for wheat, and I felt, and Mia felt too, that there had to be lots of things we could do with a single flour, contrary to common wisdom at the time, so just as a sort of gas, and because I have all this pastry chef experience, I thought I need to find some recipes that already have structure in them, and to see if that structure is enough to carry some of these flours on their own as single flour maybe on there. Or, mostly on their own, but with a partner flour. And it occurred to me that any kind of sponge cake has enough eggs in it to provide texture, and I would go ahead and test some individual flours in a series of sponge cakes to see if that would be a good sort of viable platform for using these flours without having to create a whole blend. And it turned out I was really quite right about that. I chose the Genoise was because it's--if you know how to make it, it's one of the easiest sponge cakes there is, and I could practically do it in my sleep, and I lined up flours that I thought were interesting and flavorful and I just--one, two, three, four, five, six, made a sponge cake out of each one of them. The other kind of common wisdom that I wanted, that we wanted to kind of refute was that you always had to use some sort of stabilizer like, or binder or Xanthan Gum.
So part of my theory was the sponge cakes had enough structure so that maybe we could A) use a single flour and B) not using any Xanthan gum. And that's what it turned out to be right about. So where were these pure, beautiful, simple cakes made with single flours that had the different colors and textures and flavors of those flours in a cake that didn't have any funny business going on at any, you know, sort of gums or anything like that. And so those became the basis for a lot of my exploration going forward. So every chapter starts out with this simple sponge, or a variation on a simple sponge, and I branched out from the Genoise, was the French sponge cake to include other cakes that get structured from eggs, like Chiffon cakes and other forms of sponge cake. So every chapter begins with a sort of sponge side of things.
I think one of the things that's really interesting, because just going back to when you're basing your cookbook on all the different flours, I think when you find out you're gluten free, you're kind of pre-programmed to be like, oh, use this flour blend and replace it. I think that's probably one of your advantages of not being gluten free is--you weren't in that like pre-programmed mode of making a flour blend.
Exactly. I didn't feel the need to replace all of the favorite baking of my whole life. My focus was not to restrict what I was going to eat or what people were saying, but to expand the possibilities of delicious.
I feel that that's really great that you're baking with flour, and not using them as a substitute, and that it's a whole kind of new baking paradigm, so to speak. You're working with the flour and using the flours for their specialty flavor other than just, just a replacement, and I really like that kind of baking paradigm thought process. It makes baking a lot more fun and easier. Then you're not really fighting with it to replace it. You're more inducting it.
Working with it instead of against it, in a certain way, don't you think?
Yeah, for sure. It's kind of like when you're--when you're out in the ocean and instead of swimming against the tide, you're swimming with the tide.
Yeah. Yeah. You're riding the wave a little bit. Also ,now it's been a couple of years since the book is out, and I'm seeing the impact on pastry chefs on mainstream pastry chefs who like me, like to expand the kinds of ingredients and flavors they work with. So you'll find in, you'll find a lot of pastry chefs sort of moving into non gluten flours. Not only because they have clientele who need gluten free, but because it's exciting and interesting and expands the platform of possibilities, and the flavors and textures and takes us places we couldn't go before.
For sure. And definitely using these different flours gives us a whole different set of playing roles in the kitchen. Do you have some favorites, uh gluten free flours you'd like to work with, like you feel like are more versatile, where you feel like given the best flavor, so what are your--they have the best behavior so to speak. Like, as far as how they act?
You know, it sort of--I don't sort of think about it as the best behavior. I think about favorite flavors. I love buckwheat, and I love the buckwheat chapter in this book as I mentioned, because it takes us from really delicate flavors to really hardy ones, and I, I sort of loved all the experimentation that went in for that, but also I discovered some things about good old plain rice, white rice flour, which I know is not a whole grain per se, but it's a wonderful partner for some of the whole grain flours and, and sometimes it just sort of amplifies their textures, and also white rice flour on its own in certain things, has a beautiful, beautiful flavor.
I mean it's sort of a chameleon. It can work as a neutral flavor with others or on its own. It has this beautiful rice flavor, so I loved discovering that. I also love corn. Corn flour, which should not be confused with cornstarch, is like a much finer version of cornmeal. And so it takes us to places that cornmeal doesn't. I mean, we all know about cornbread. It's kind of rough and delicious and hardy and rustic, but when the flour is finer, you can get a delicious, beautifully textured, Chiffon cake made out of corn, and it generally, I don't think of these gluten free recipes as necessarily better than any other recipes, but different. But sometimes I think they are better. I don't find Chiffon cake very interesting in general, but when I started making Chiffon cakes with some of these other flours, I suddenly thought, oh, these are--these are marvelous. I'm definitely interested in Chiffon cake now.
And then when you're talking about rice flour, you were saying how rice flour. Sometimes you put it in a recipe just for the texture, and that's because rice flour flour is just so fine and so powdery, correct?
It helps to add it to a recipe that has coarser flour in there, because it makes things a little more delicate, but it also kind of amplifies other flavors so that, for example, if you make something chocolatey with rice flour instead of all purpose flour, it might taste choc--more chocolatey because there's sort of acts as a super, super neutral. If you make something lemony with rice flour, you'll get more lemony flavor than you expect. Because of that weird thing about rice flour amplifying, or letting the other flavors take center stage. Rice flour is very versatile and interesting.
Yeah, that's actually I never thought of that, and most of the time when I cook with--bake with rice flour, I'm baking with it because I want, I want my cake to be like, it's just more of a texture, but I haven't thought of using that as a background so that my other flavors stand out.
Yeah. So interesting. It's endlessly interesting. Sometimes I feel like we just scratched the surface in this book of what there is to learn.
And one of the other really interesting things I found is that I had made, and for my listeners, if you go to my Instagram feed, you will see a picture of this. It came out amazing, and we'll get into this a little bit more later, but we're talking about corn flour. Your new Classic Boston Cream Pie was made with corn flour and I thought, well, I really have never thought about making Boston cream pie with corn flour because normally when I think of corn flour, I think of like tortilla chips and corn bread, like all the normal stuff you would think of, but when you make this with the Boston cream pie, just like the texture and the flavor of the corn flour worked really, really well with this recipe.
Yeah, it gets a corny flavor, but with more delicate texture, which is like a revelation really. You know, even, even if you love cornbread, you don't want your cake to feel like cornbread, you want it to be more refined and tender and melt in your mouth, and that's what corn flour gives you. Although it does give you a bit of texture to.
Yeah, it was really, really great. So we're going to take a short break. When we come back, find out about why you want to whip your eggs, how to use xanthan gum and the trick to hydrating your baking recipes.
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I want to talk about some processes of baking. Let's start with eggs. I've learned from your book that I shouldn't just crack my eggs and mix them up. I don't have really--ever really any formal schooling. I just have some kind of baking classes here and there, but I noticed that when I made this Boston cream pie recipe, you talk about whipping the eggs and why is this step important and gluten free baking?
Well, you're getting some leavening from the air that you've beaten into the eggs, and you're getting some binding and some structure from it, whereas sometimes if you just stir in the eggs, you're not getting all of those things. Um, and so I thought if my memory is correct, that Boston cream pie is made with a--think that cake there is a actually a Chiffon cake with a little corn flour. And so Chiffon cake is all about, using the whipped egg whites as a leavening and a lightness element, and there's no baking powder or baking soda in that particular recipe. So all your leavening is coming from those whipped egg whites.
When you talk about leavening, for some of my listeners who may not know, leavening, means it's just rising. And when it rises, it gets air in it. And when it, when it gets air in it, it's a more lighter and fluffier cake, or more delicate.
Well, leavening--yes. Leavening means something that lifts or lightens the cake. And usually in baking that's going to be baking powder, baking soda or a combination thereof. But there's a whole classification of cakes called sponge cakes and chiffon cakes, where all of that leavening comes from air that you trap in the batter either by whipping egg whites separately or whipping whole eggs, depends on the recipe, and those little tiny air bubbles in the batter then rise in the oven.
And actually for, 'cause I live at 7,000 feet, so I deal with high altitude baking and so that's--this is actually whipping the eggs gives me a better and more consistent result I found, than just putting the baking powder in, because you're getting--with the baking powder it, there's also other, the other environmental things that affect it, but with whipping the eggs, it's just that whipping--whipping the eggs actually gives me a more consistent, which I really, really liked, which I loved, loved, loved learning from your cookbook. Another thing I want to talk about, which I hear lots of things on both sides is Xanthan Gum. A lot of people have heard about it, especially if you're gluten free. Some people don't use it at all. Some people just use it all the time. So Alice, can you tell us more about Xanthan gum and do we need this and gluten free baking? Do we not need this? What role does Xanthan gum have to play out?
I'm sort of not an all or nothing kind of girl. So xanthan gum is a kind of gum and it gives some structure and holds things together, and it does sort of what gluten does it, but since we're not baking with gluten, here is another thing to give things either a little chew or a little binding. We set out partly to prove that you didn't have to put into Xanthan gum in everything. As I said, when you're doing all of these different kinds of sponge cakes, which includes Chiffon cakes, and Genoise, and classic sponge, and separated and expanded, all that kind of stuff. You basically don't need the Xantham Gum, so why use something you don't need. Xantham also for certain people is a little upsetting to the tummy, and this might possibly be in part because it's overused. In other words, a lot of recipes that include Xantham either don't need the Xantham and the person who created the recipe did not know that, or too much of it's used, so what we tried to do was to only use the Xantham where it seemed necessary and to use it in the smallest amount possible.
None of our sponge cakes have Xantham gum and, it and all of our butter cakes, and those are just classifications that have to do with how cakes are mixed, and people don't even need to know the classification because the recipes are all right there, and all you have to do is follow them, but the butter cake seemed to need it, and some of the cookies seem to need it, and when we found a recipe that did need it, we experimented by using less and less and less, and ended up using just the amount that did the job.
If someone is Vegan, so they won't--they wouldn't eat eggs, then they would have to substitute Xantham gum obviously to get that stickiness in their recipe?
It's not so simple as that, really. Vegan is a whole other thing, and substituting for eggs and dairy is a whole other proposition.
So you really can't say they would "just anything," because there is no, they would "just." It's just, it's very dependent on what else is in the recipe and what, what type of recipe. So you know, there's no silver bullet
There's not one to one substitution, like if you're vegan instead of using--okay. So that would be a whole different ball game because there's just too many variables to pin it down to one thing.
Exactly. It's just like--it's just like if somebody said, oh, to make something gluten free, all I have to do is X. You and I both know that it's not as simple as that. Right? Otherwise we wouldn't have whole books on, and it wouldn't have taken me a, you know, a million experiments with the partner to, to arrive at a book like this.
That's good to know though. So that, the recipes, you don't have Xantham gum and they don't need them because you have other...
Other binding ingredients. Yeah.
Like whipped eggs.
Whipped eggs is often the case. Yeah.
One other thing, let's talk hydration, because I know from just my small amount of experience, you obviously have way more than I do, but this is definitely one of the trickiest components, especially because I live in a high altitude, really dry climate when I'm doing gluten free baking. So in the past I've used like apple sauce, coconut oil, I've added more water, but I really want to know from an expert such as yourself, Alice, what is your take on hydration and what ingredients or processes do you use to hydrate when you're baking gluten free?
It depends on the recipe. Everything seems to depend on the recipe, but just to back up for a second, if anybody has tried to bake gluten free or even purchased gluten free products and found them kind of gritty, grainy, or they tasted like uncooked grain, that's often because there's not enough hydration, and sometimes hydration means just letting something sit long enough for the grains to absorb some moisture from the rest of your dough. Cookie doughs that are allowed to rest overnight is a good example of getting better hydration, and this is true even in non gluten free baking. That's why cookie dough that rests overnight often makes better cookies, is you've got better hydration in the case of some recipes have so much moisture in them and spend so much time in the oven. They don't need any extra step. The hydration just takes place in the normal process.
I have a lot of cookies. They're sorta like butter cookies in that book. And one of the things I experimented with baking time and temperature, and well with regular wheat flour baking, I might bake a cookie at 350 or 375. I've found I got better results at 325, because the longer and slower these doughs baked, the more, the less uncooked starch or grain flavor and graininess I got, and I think that that's because I was giving a longer time in the oven to absorb more of the liquid, and to cook out those, those bad textures and flavors.
Yeah, and I actually noticed that too. We are--in one of my previous episodes, that's one of the things I tell my listeners, is to turn down your temperature and cook it for a little bit longer, because these flours are, tend to be more dry than regular wheat, so you have to give them basically more time to cook, but you don't want to, because cooking them at a higher temperature is going to dry them out faster. It's not going to cook them. It's not going to shorten your baking time.
I mean it's like an endless rabbit hole you can go down, figuring all of this stuff out. And I love that you have some baking experience, and you've encountered the problems that, that we went and then solved. The other thing I should point out is all this sounds really, really complicated, but nobody who uses this book needs to know these details because the recipes. It's all built into the recipes.
Yeah. I noticed that when I was looking through some of the other recipes I was looking at making, is you really don't have to be--u=you don't have to have a lot of knowledge about how to bake them. If you follow the recipe exactly it works really well. And I think one of the things I know I'm used to, and I'm sure other people are used to as well, is when you're converting a recipe that you find online or whatever and it's a wheat recipe, you have to always change something up, but your cookbook is so great because you don't have to change anything. You just have to follow the recipe exactly. Which takes a lot of guesswork out, which makes baking it a lot less stressful because you know it's going to turn out.
I think in in general with baking, my best advice is to follow the recipe exactly the--for at least the first time so you know what it can be, how good it can be. Assuming you've got a good rated who knows what they're doing, and then if you want to start to experiment with it, then work from that recipe. Because small change--especially somebody who doesn't have the technical knowledge or isn't a chef, has no idea what a small change will, will cause in a recipe. And if you take a recipe, read it and say, Oh, I'm going to change this a little, I'm gonna use a little less than do this. You might have a total disaster and assume the recipe is bad, when in fact some of the little things you did or what contributed to that disaster. So really give the recipe creator the benefit of the doubt in baking. Do it the way they wrote it the first time, and then have your way with it.
I know from teaching science, if you change too many variables, you don't know which one has affected your outcome.
There's that too. And even those of us who do this, I mean I try to make myself only change one thing at a time when I'm working to create something new or a variation, because you know, you wanna you, want to cut to the chase, Oh let's change this, this and this, and you do that. It fails and you don't know which change caused.
So you have to go back and do it again, you know, one at a time anyway.
Actually, one of the reasons why I started keeping like, I call it my recipe diary.
In the kitchen. And so, uh, because when you're making it, you're thinking, oh, I'll remember this for next time. Nobody ever does because we have too much stuff going on in their lives. I'm actually starting to, like when I change the recipe, I write down what I changed and then write down how it turned out.
Yeah, me too. Me Too. That is totally the right thing to do. Real people think it's way too scientific, but really it's part of the creative process, you know, it's part of remembering what you did and it's part of--and then taking down what you think you might do next time. Yeah, this was good, but next time do X, Y, or Z.
You have to write these things down because in order to recreate something better or recreate it the way you did last time because you really liked it, you have to know exactly what you did.
Yeah.You have to know what you've done. And I mean that also speaks to using weights instead of a dry measures for, in baking too.
I don't think I've ever done that.
Graduate to that, and it will change your life.
Really, it'll simplify. It will make fewer dishes to do, less uncertainty about how things went into the measuring cup. I mean you don't--you don't even know how much flour you use from time to time if you use a measuring cup, because it may not put it in there the same way every time.
I never thought about that, but when you said that, I thought, you know what? I have two different sets of measuring cups. I'm sure they're not obviously--no that's fine, because I'm sure other people who are listening are thinking the same thing. Like I have like a yellow--I don't even know what brand they are. They're just some inexpensive brand I bought in the store, but there's a yellow set and then there's a white set, and I'm, I'm sure they're not the same exact measurements. I mean, I'm sure they're both made in China, but. So yeah, measuring by the gram.
By the gram is just a thing of beauty. It cleans up your whole process and learn it. And most scales these days have a switch that'll flip from ounces to grams, so you don't even have to know what a gram is.
All you have to do is look at the read out.
So for my listeners out there, gram is metric and an in ounces is English. It is way easier to convert metric than it is English. And I've taught this in science for years. So if you have a choice to do ounces or metric, metric and if you don't know how to convert it and the scale, you don't have the scale of converts it for whatever reason, there are lots of conversion apps you can get on your phone for free that you can put in ounces and it'll tell you how many grams you need. So that's another little trick you can use if you don't know how to convert ounces to grams in your head. Because most--I don't, and I taught science for years. But if you want to do this, I'm going to definitely try this way in my weighing out things by grams. Is there a specific scale you like to use? Are there ones that are better than others? If you want to do the weighing?
I think people should Google that. I have one I've used for years and years, and it's an ugly sort of professional little scale, and it's not something one is going to readily find, but there's lots of scales available that are really good. They switch from ounces to grams. They cost less than 10 lattes. Definitely worth having in your in your kitchen. Easy to use. Um, the other thing I do when I'm writing a recipe or converting some of my old ounces to grams is I bookmark the ounces to grams thing on my computer, and I just click on that and you put in your answers are put in your grants and it converts it right away. I mean a lot of that stuff's in my head now, but when I want to make sure I just use that online.
Yeah. Because that's true. You can also just go online and do a ounces to gram converter and it will just show you on Google. So Alice, because I've never shopped for, I mean I have when I was on a diet some years ago, whatever, but when I'm looking for a decent scale to be measuring flours with when I'm baking, what's the general price range? Am I looking for like if I'm just like, if someone like me and I'm making for myself or for my friends, and I'm not doing this professionally. Is there a general price range?
Oh, you can get something for less than $30.
Like I said, less than 10 lattes. You don't go for a latte every morning. You can pay for your...
Depending on what size latte you buy.
Yeah, right, exactly. Or where you live, I suppose.
So that. So that would be an easy thing to get that you could try. Just measuring your flours to make it more consistent.
Well, yeah, and also if you buy, if you buy a baking book, most of us who are worth our salt have been publishing in ounces or grams for a long time, and then you can switch over and just use the ounces or grams that they put in their recipes, because most of them probably tested in ounces or grams. I know I test in grams, so then you're getting much closer to what the recipe creator had in mind in the first place.
Sounds great. So Alice, I want to go back again to that Boston cream pie we talked about earlier. That's the most recent recipe I've made from your book, was the new classic Boston Cream Pie. When you get this cookbook it's on page 145. You definitely need to try this out. And I originally made this for--we had a memorial day barbecue. We had some friends over, and I made this for one of the desserts. And then the main reason I actually chose this dessert was because my daughter, uh, my 19 year old, well she'll be 19, uh, who is Celiacs, this is her favorite dessert. And she obviously, this is something that you really would not find in a store that's gluten free. So I promised her I'd find a recipe and make it. And then when I got your book I was really excited. I made four desserts for the barbecue, and the Boston cream pie was one of them. And this one's hopped everyone's list as their favorite, but I force my friends to eat gluten free desserts because that's the ones I can eat. But anyway, they really liked this. They all said, told me, um, my--I call them my non gluten free friends, that if I had given them this dessert and did not tell them it was gluten free, they would not know the difference at all. And they said that your Boston, your new classic Boston Cream Pie was actually better than some of the Boston cream pies they had bought in stores.
Love it. Love it. Love it. Thank you. One of the reasons I think that Boston cream pie is so good is because the pastry cream, which is that thick custard.
Oh, that's amazing. I, if I, if I could eat that for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Eat it with a spoon. It's made from rice flour. And the rice flour acts in a way to amplify this sort of yummy eggy custard flavor. So it's become my new best pastry cream. Even if I'm doing a recipe that is not gluten free, I'm liable to do that rice flour pastry cream.
I really like it. 'Cause I've made pastry cream before, and it's the, I don't know, maybe it's because of the rice flour or the tastes of the rice that gives the pastry cream, but your pastry cream here, it tastes a little bit lighter and a little bit sweeter, but not because I'm not a big like I liked really sweet things, but it's. It just gave it just a different twist for a pastry cream. I liked it a lot.
Right, and you can always take down the sugar a little bit. That's not going to hurt a thing.
Alice, another quick question I wanted to ask you is, how did you choose the types of desserts to put in here? Now I know about your sponge cake because you had talked about that earlier, but how did you choose like the other desserts that you wanted to put in your cookbook for this?
Well, we certainly wanted a variety, but we also were busy trying to figure out what would work. So once I lit on the sponge cake, of course I searched all sponge cakes and tried all the flours with the sponge cake. Maya was, meanwhile, she had perfected this, um, this rice flour based butter cake, which is a more, you know, more traditional birthday cake like texture. So she explored variations based on that. We had come up with a good butter cookie. And so we explored variations baked on it. I mean it was, you know, I hate to say it wasn't that scientific is what can we make work that is really delicious.
So we're going to stop here for a really quick break. We're going to recognize some sponsors. When we come back, we're going to talk to Alice briefly about the best flour for cakes, pancakes, and cookies.
Alice, in your cookbook you talk about different flours and how they behave differently. I would like to know what you recommend for those of us who bake gluten free, on some of your flours that you like for a recipe that's made over and over again and say, pancakes. Is there like a favorite flour that you'd like to use a lot for pancakes.
One thing that's so interesting about pancakes, which means also waffles and crepes, is that they're very, very flexible and you can try your favorite recipe using all kinds of different flours. By and large, they'll work. I use a lot of different flours, single flour for pancakes, waffles, and crepes. Sorghum is one I like a lot. I like the taste and texture. It makes a great waffle. Buckwheat of course I love. And you can make buckwheat pancakes all with buckwheat flour, 100 percent buckwheat flour, or you can do a half and half rice flour, buckwheat, or you can, or three quarters, whatever. You can experiment a lot. Pancakes, waffles and crepes are one of those types of recipes where it is not that difficult to transform your favorite, you know, gluten recipe into a gluten free one because it just works.
Cake's another one of my favorite things to eat for dessert, but it definitely seems hard to create a gluten free cake that's not really dense. And we, we had talked about whipping eggs and some other things you can use to add some air in there. But do you--are there better flours that are better for making cakes?
Well, if you want neutral, if you want neutral and not too grainy, stick on the rice flour side of things or things that have a lot of rice flour. If you want lots of flavor from the flour, and you don't mind a little bit of grain or texture moved towards the buckwheat or teff. Sorghum is sort of an in between. It does have some grain to it, and so I usually cut it with a little rice flour.
Is there a flour that you liked working with more for cake?
Well, a lot of butter cake based things, which have a sort of typical, um, you know, birthday cake-like texture that we might be familiar with, have a lot of rice flour in them. So I would, I would focus on anything in the, in the book called butter cake, and you'll see that there's mostly rice flour.
We tended to add a little bit, to make it a little more interesting, we tend to add a little oat flour, which is nice and soft and doesn't have a grain to it. There's a spectacular chocolate cake in here called Mia's Fudge Cake, which is mostly rice with a little bit of oat flour, makes us super birthday cake. I would, I would serve it to anyone, whether they're gluten free or not, and they won't particularly notice. They'll just take it in as yummy chocolate cake. Very American style in a good way. Totally recommend it.
It sounds like the next cake on my hit list that I need to make.
Yeah, you definitely should try that, and do it with the milk chocolate frosting. Even if you're a dark chocolate, milk chocolate frosting on the cake is just...
Oh, that's good to know because I am a dark chocolate kind of girl. Another one is cookies. So what is your most interesting with, within the cookie realm of your book?
Within the cookie realm there's--you will see if you make a lot of these cookies, that the base is sort of the same. It's a combination of butter and a little bit of cream cheese to hold it together, and we started out with the one in the oat chapter, and it just tastes like a delicious butter cookie that you can, you can roll it out and decorate it. You can roll it into a ball and make a sort of a Russian tea cake out of it. You can make a thumbprint cookie out of it. It just works beautifully. It has a nice buttery flavor. Holds together. The texture is good. You can flavor it in a lot of ways, but then we went on and did versions with buckwheat and did versions with teff and cocoa, so it became the sort of basic butter cookie.
There's a great book. We have linzer cookie in here with jam and spices, which I love. Lots of cookies in here based on a sort of a butter cookie, just the way in gluten baking, you would base a lot of different cookies on a plain butter butter cookie, and then there's your little thin, buttery, elegant little wafers called tuile, or wafers or tuiles. And I did those with various flours also. They're very clancy. You can roll them into a little cigarette. There are often shaped over something round so they have a little bit of the shape of a Pringles potato chip. Those are lovely and elegant. We tended to find basic recipes that really, really worked and then try to spin off the best variations with the, with the other flours.
So I do have a question for you on one of the flourses you had mentioned a few times recently, teff. I owned a health food store years ago and knew a lot about different flours early on, and teff was when I've about, but I'm not really familiar with. What is--what exactly is teff?
Yeah, it's the grain of Ethiopia and it, if you've been to an Ethiopian restaurant and you've been served the flatbread that is used as sort of a utensil and a mopping device for all the soups and stews, that's called injera and it's made with teff flour, and until I think the gluten free sort of community came along, teff was mostly used in Ethiopia by Ethiopians for that, but teff is a non-wheat whole grain. It's actually, it's an ancient. It's considered an ancient grain. Now there's a huge community of gluten free people who are using teff. It has a flavor a little bit like wait to this, a little bit grainy.
I actually made a sponge cake out of it. It didn't appear in the book. It tasted a little like a whole wheat sponge and it definitely has possibilities. But the other thing about teff that's interesting is has little notes of cocoa in the flavor, and so it's a natural for use in chocolate recipes. So I made probably the best chocolate Genoise, chocolate sponge, I've ever made using teff and Cocoa. I've used teff in brownies, because again, there's that overlap of cocoa-y flavor we created. We created, Mia created a series of incredible savory crackers in this book and one of them has teff. Those are divine.
And you also have a German chocolate cake made with teff.
Yes, that, it uses the teff chocolate sponge, and then the usual German chocolate cake filling. Super sweet, but kind of delicious.
Sounds really good. This is such a dangerous book to have in my hands because I'm supposed to be going sugar free for awhile. Another question I have is you have teff and then there's another one chestnut flour, which I actually never heard of before.
Oh, love, love, love. One of my favorite flours. You can't really get it all year round. You get it in the fall when the chestnut harvest comes. And um, I've given some resources to where I think the best chestnut flour is, but it's delicious. I mean, if you love, if you love eating roasted chestnuts on the street, and I don't know if they do that in Utah, but if you go to New York or some of the big cities, or Paris or London, you buy chestnuts on the street. Chestnut flour is, has that flavor, and it's delicious. It's soft. Um, it makes a lovely cookie. It makes a beautiful little sponge cake. Love, love, love.
I was born and raised in Philadelphia, so the chestnuts by the fire, we've done that, and yeah, so I've made my own roasted chestnuts, which are really great. Chestnut flour is not something that you can commonly find in your, maybe your local health food store. Do you have information in your book on where people can find those?
Definitely, and I order it online from my favorite place listed in the book and um, and then I store some in the freezer. So in case I want to do something chestnut, the chestnut harvest is over and the flour is gone. I've got it in the freezer.
Okay. Yep. And I see these listed in your resources in the back. And then, so if I wanted to store teff or chestnut flour, I know flours have different lifespans in the freezer depending on what type of flours and how much fat they have in their content, I believe. Well, how long can you store teff or chestnut flour in the freezer?
In the freezer probably probably a year or so, or it depends on how, how well you've packed it.
Right. You want to double bag it and seal it without air.
Certainly twelve months in the freezer if you've done a good job.
Yeah, and definitely fans, if you're listening to this label your stuff. Because when I first started packing stuff for the freezer, I'm like, I'll remember what it is. And you never know.
"I'll remember that." Famous last words.
Yeah. And then you're like what is this? And then I don't know if it's gluten free, so I ended up tossing it. Chestnut flour only comes out once a year. You can buy enough to last you all year, put it in the freezer, and then once you'd use that, the next year you can buy some more fresh chestnut flour.
Awesome. Sounds great. So I'm going to start wrapping up, Alice. Normally at the end I ask people their guilty gluten free pleasure questions, but since you're not gluten free, I've kind of changed this up a little bit. So there's three questions I'd like to ask you. One, what was the biggest mistake you've made when you started creating your chocolate recipes in the very beginning of your chocolate making endeavors?
Oh, so long ago. That was so long ago. I can't talk to the biggest mistake I made, but somewhere in the middle years when chocolate started to change in this country because we started producing higher percentage chocolates, I had that steep learning curve of realizing that you couldn't just substitute a 70 percent chocolate for the ordinary kind of chocolate we were used to using in this country. And that sort of sent me down a long rabbit hole which resulted in a book about how to use high percentage chocolates in baking. You know, how to understand what they are, and what they do and how they behave differently. So I would say that challenges in using them led to a whole new book.
Awesome. That's great. So another question I have about a gluten free. Did you ever have a misnomer about the gluten free community when you started working with people with the gluten free community, or did you have a change of perspective about how the gluten free community interacts with foods since you published your cookbook?
I will say that I know that people eat gluten free for a lot of different reasons. Some of them are dire health consequences. I don't care what those reasons are. I just want to produce something delicious for people.
So you weren't coming at it from the perspective of making a gluten free cookbook for gluten free people. You were making a cookbook for everyone that anybody who's gluten free you could use.
I'm a big believer in delicious. And so if you notice that when this book came out first in the hardback edition, it was simply called Flavor Flours, because I wanted it to be for everyone, because I didn't want to make that distinction between people who were whatever reason in a restricted way. I wanted to kind of legitimize this in a, in a different way for everyone, and I think that works really well, and it certainly worked for my audience. But after awhile we thought, well, maybe we've missed without putting--because we didn't put gluten free on the title and talk a lot about gluten free inside the book. Maybe we missed people who really want this book and could really, really use this book. And so that is why the paperback came out and why that title was changed to gluten free. And I did go in and of course address gluten free a little bit more specifically in the introductory material, etc. And the recipes are the same. I think it was important to let gluten free people know that this book is gluten free. And secondly, to continue making a sort of mainstream statement about all these delicious new ingredients that people weren't using it.
Obviously when I saw your cookbook, I saw gluten free flavor flours, so I wanted to try it because it was gluten free. But I like the fact that this obviously, this shows everyone who uses it, it's not about gluten free has to taste bad. Gluten free tastes good. It's just changing up how you view it and so many other things out there that tastes good and they're not. We, we should be shifting our perspective from because it's gluten free, it's not going to taste good to, hey, let's make it with all these different flavors. So we have a different spectrum and a different variety of nutrients and a lot of different flavors to work with when we're making our food to make it really delicious.
There's always been gluten free, not--or flour free desserts in the dessert repertoire. You know, in the classic repertoire, we've always had--towards delicious things that didn't have flour in the,m and we didn't call them gluten free. And there is some of the best things in the baking repertoire, so I, I just don't like stigmatizing anything by labeling it in a, in a way that makes other people say ew, I don't want to eat that because I don't have to. And I think that people who do have restrictions for whatever reasons deserve to eat delicious.
I will totally second that because I was, I'm a total foodie, but even before I was gluten free, and so now I'm a gluten free foodie, it's a little more challenging, but it's just you just have to be really creative of what you do. And I love your book because it really takes the lid off of the limits that currently on our gluten free community about what you can really do with gluten free food. I want to just talk about some future plans. Alice, your cookbook is really, I think an amazing gift to the gluten free community. Just cooking with other flours that are not the typical, what Americans cook with, and there's so much knowledge and information on not just what to make but like as we talked about processes and the components of how to make a really good high quality gluten free desserts, which I would definitely place against any traditional wheat-based desserts any day. I think these are a lot better. So what are your future plans for your cookbook and do you have any other plans?
I continue to write for Food 52 every week, which gives me an opportunity to explore, you know, whatever the heck I might be interested in that week or that month, which is good, and some of it what I do is gluten free on there and some of it is not. There's often chocolate. There's often seasonal things. I would love to do a kind of follow up book to this and explore some of the other flours that we did not work with and move more into the savory side of baking, which we did not do too much in this original book, and I'm doing a lot of projects. Some of which have to do with creating new product creation and consulting and that sort of thing.
So I know my listeners are going to want to get a copy of your book, or are going to be interested or know somebody who's going to want to get a copy. How can my listeners get a copy of your book? Alice, what is the best way to do that?
All the usual ways. Independent bookstores or online from the usual sources.
Awesome, and I will definitely put some links in the show notes so our listeners are interested in. Just a couple wrap up questions. So what is your ask of the audience? Alice, what would you like my audience to--if they should get a copy of your, of your book.
You can follow me on twitter. You can follow me on Instagram. Enjoy your food, enjoy baking, use a scale. Good advice for those of you who like to create new recipes is start from a tried and true recipe and start your alterations from there. If you are someone who is easily frustrated, doesn't like to experiment too much, don't take a weak recipe and try to turn it into gluten free. That's like trying to turn a cat into a dog. Yeah, so make life easier. Start with a recipe that you know works and that you like, and then make changes that might make you like it better. One change at a time.
And then what is your website that people could come and visit you online?
Alicemedrich.com A L I C E M E D R I C H
Dot com. All one word.
So fans definitely check out Alice online. Pick up a copy of her Gluten Free Flavor Flours book. It's amazing. Alice, I really, really enjoyed talking with you today. I've learned so much from this interview. Thank you so much.
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